Kandeh Yumkella meets with Sierra Leoneans in the United States

Anthony Kamaea (Jnr): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 August 2018:

Over a week ago, the Hon. Kandeh Yumkella, Member of Parliament for Constituency 062 – Samu Chiefdom and Parliamentary Leader of the National Grand Coalition Party arrived in the USA on a “Thank You” tour.

He is in America to also support Kambia District premiere alumni association – Old Kolenten Students Association (OKSA-USA) 2018 Reunion Night and Fundraising Dinner held in Alexandria, Virginia and Lanham, Maryland.

Ten days following his arrival, he has already completed half of his tour schedule visiting Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Arkansas, Texas (Dallas and Houston), where Sierra Leoneans of all stripes showed up to listen as he speaks about his work as a public servant and to ask very tough questions about their country.

At each stop, Hon. Yumkella registered his deepest gratitude on behalf of the National Grand Coalition (NGC) Party for all the support he received from the Diaspora.” You were there for us at every step of the way and you played an integral role during our campaign with your finances, moral support and in mobilizing support at home,” he said.

In well attended town hall style meetings with cross sections of Sierra Leonean communities from all walks of life, different political parties, and demographics, he re-emphasized the key themes of his presidential campaign speeches over the past three years – defending constitutionality and the rule of law, inclusive growth and economic diversification, the fight against corruption and kleptocracy, and the urgency of dealing with the youth bulge.

What is new in his speeches are three key issues: Crucial need for responsible leadership; his efforts to secure bipartisan support for a dual nationality bill and voting rights for the diaspora; and the critical importance of separation of power and the critical role of parliamentary oversight.

However, Sierra Leoneans are asking questions at every stop he makes about his views on the Government Transition Report (GTR), the impending Commissions of Inquiry, and the war on corruption; the collapse of the Sierra Leonean economy; whether NGC will form a coalition with APC or other opposition parties; voting rights for the diaspora; and social issues of free education, affordable healthcare and youth and women’s empowerment.

In classic Yumkella fashion, he has risen to the occasion by providing candid answers in his town hall meetings, lunches and dinners.

In three separate articles, I will provide insight into the Hon. Yumkella’s messages and his responses to questions from Sierra Leoneans. This first piece will provide his remarks on responsible leadership and fighting corruption in Sierra Leone:

FIGHTING CORRUPTION IN SIERRA LEONE: OUR CONSCIENCE, VALUES AND RESPONSIBILITY

On August 22, 2018 I will have been continuously at the heart of Sierra Leone politics for a full three years. I have now been in the boxing ring and swallowed my share of blood and sweat when I am punched hard by vile propaganda; groaning when I am denied justice; and then picking myself up to continue marching forward when the odds are against me.

What has kept me going is a clear conscience, strong faith in the Almighty, true belief that we can turn our country around, and a strong sense of responsibility that we owe it to the next generation to transform our politics and our country.

Hence Grahame Broadbent’s observation that “the opposite of responsible leadership isn’t irresponsible leadership; it is inaction. It is good people doing nothing. In an organizational context it is talented people not performing. In a leadership context it is leaders not leading …”

As I gain more insights into the challenges that our country currently faces, I am forced to dwell on our country’s struggle with fragility as a state in which corruption has become a negative and restraining force on our people’s yearning for the urgent satisfaction of their basic needs.

Since the publication of the Government Transition Team Report (GTTR), the debate on corruption has intensified and one wanders what the true values are in our society. Or is it that some of us do not have a conscience any more.

I agree with the current regime that corruption is a national security threat. In fact, the previous regime also recognized corruption as a major threat to development. Let us assume that only 50% of what is in the current GTT Report is true, should we not have a Commission of Enquiry to (a) investigate the veracity of the allegations/findings and to determine the depth of the cancer so that the right cure can be found, and (b) provide an opportunity for those accused to clear their names? Yes, we should!

I have reread the GTTR a few times. Despite some of its short comings, it raises some fundamental questions such as:

Is it right that a few government officials (the 1% of society) in collusion with our Parliament acquired mineral deposits without a thorough review?

Is it right that a few people took over government assets at Hill Station, Spur Road, Wilkinson Road, etc. (each worth over a quarter million dollars or more), and sold it to themselves for ten thousand dollars each?

Is it right for the shares of Sierra Rutile to be sold by “executive clearance” when we have a sitting Parliament? What if the current regime does the same? This information has been in the international media for at least 5 years, so should we pretend that it never happened?

Is it right for the head of an institution to spend about $1 million to fumigate roaches and ants while 30,000 teaches go without salaries? If the allegation is not true, does the CEO and the other managers not deserve the opportunity to clear their name? (Photo: NRA boss – Haja Kallah Kamara, accused of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission). 

Don’t we deserve to know whether the infrastructure projects and several major procurement contracts delivered value for money?

The Auditor General in four major reports from 2014-2017 (including the special report on Ebola funds) documented blatant system-wide schemes to defraud the country in a well-organized kleptocracy?

Is it right that we go begging donors for hand-outs to fund critical social services, while we leave Dracula to guard our blood bank?

This is how we lose over$50 million a year in illegal fishing; while our forests are decimated and over $200 million a year is carted away?

It is obvious that today our country is going through a moral crisis and it requires, for at least the next few months until the end of the year, that each of us should let go off our party colours and put ‘Salon Fos’. We must examine our own conscience and our own core values to speak truth to power and to defend the voiceless. We must help win the war on corruption including holding the current government accountable.

At the same time, to be credible, the Commissions of Enquiry must include the Permanent Secretaries and Vote Controllers for they are at the heart of financial transactions in all government institutions and parastatals. A minister or CEO of a parastatal cannot withdraw money or issue a contract without the signature or concurrence of a permanent secretary or a vote controller.

In fact, the Permanent Secretaries and Vote Controllers rotate from ministry to ministry with impunity leaving the ministers to take the ‘bum rap’ for any impropriety. They enjoy impunity by invoking their favourite mantra “I am directed” or “I was directed”. To be transformative, the inquiries must also be thorough and fair to allow the innocent to go free and the guilty to face the full penalty of the law.

To prevent abuse of human rights and freedoms, the tenure of the Commissions cannot be open-ended. They must be time bound and able to complete their work within one year to ensure that the current Executive Branch does not use it to go after those who will challenge their future excesses.

Ultimately, the work of the proposed Commissions of Inquiry will give us an insight into whether the New Direction is a direction for change and progress. The Chief Minister bears the biggest responsibility for ensuring that the Commissions are not a charade and that justice is delivered quickly, for justice delayed is justice denied.

As true citizens, we should all support the war on corruption and make sure it succeeds. This requires us to examine our own values and our conscience. As Professor Lumumba would say, some people want to fight corruption provided it is not against their tribesmen/tribeswomen or provided it does not disrupt their own personal access to the loot.

Each of us has a role in the fight for the soul of our country. It is basically a fight about our belief in and consciousnesses about values, morality and justice. So, are you ready for change? Start with your own conscience.

Author: Anthony Abdul Karim Kamara, Jnr

1 Comment

  1. The vision of president Bio is visible. Critics should wait and look up to the future; allow Mr Bio to prove himself wrong. Condemning his government at this moment is untimely. Assess before you evaluate.

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